The Bartlett


MaaS appeal

Mobility as a Service is ushering in the demise of car ownership and the rise of the new urban traveller.

Graphic that reads "mass appeal"

Energy Institute
Dr Maria Kamargianni

For the mobility sector, change has been the name of the game for decades. But, over the past decade in particular, automotive players have experienced one of the largest strategic shifts in car history. Tightening global CO2 regulations and, more recently, the Paris climate agreement, have forced the industry to adopt disruptive technologies faster than anticipated. In addition, technological advancements and the rise of the sharing economy have revealed new opportunities for products and services in the transport sector. 

New mobility services, such as peer-to-peer mobility and vehicle sharing, have challenged the taxi and public transport establishment, and personal vehicle ownership. Disruptive innovations like these have the power to redefine industries and the behaviour of users. While the baby boomers vehicle buying habits were fuelled by the car’s role as a status symbol, the significance of car ownership for millennials has notably decreased. Instead, younger generations place much higher value on owning electronic devices, such as laptops and smartphones. While young baby boomers obtained their ultimate sense of freedom from owning their own cars, today’s teenagers and young adults achieve the same through mobile communication devices. This changing transport landscape has triggered the development of new mobility concepts, such as the Mobility as a Service (MaaS), that may change or disrupt current models of transport provision, particularly in urban areas.

MaaS is a user-centric, intelligent mobility management and distribution system, in which an integrator – the MaaS Operator - brings together offerings of multiple mobility service providers and provides end-users access to them through a digital interface, allowing them to seamlessly plan and pay for mobility. Public transport modes are usually the backbone in this concept, which may increase their usage. It has the potential to curtail dependence on private vehicles and deliver seamless mobility as it allows integration and co-operation across transport operators, the bundling of transport services and their provision to travellers as one product. 

Travellers could have access to easy, flexible, reliable, price-worthy and seamless everyday transit from A to B

Through MaaS, travellers could have access to easy, flexible, reliable, price-worthy and seamless everyday transit from A to B that includes combinations of public and on-demand transport and shared vehicles. In addition, MaaS initiates new concepts for mobility products: for example, users can buy either all the modes needed for a trip (pay-as-you-go) or monthly mobility plans, including different amounts of transport services, based on their needs, through a single interface.

Although the MaaS concept has only recently emerged, it has attracted the interest of several public and private actors around the world. MaaSLab at the UCL Energy Institute is the world-leading group working on MaaS. We conduct cutting-edge research on this topic that provide insights for the development of MaaS systems in several cities around the world and also the development of MaaS products within the industry. 

Studies that MaaSLab has conducted for the UK Department for Transport and for Transport for London have shown that MaaS could be used to introduce more people to public and shared transport modes. MaaS has the potential to impact both car-owners’ and non-car-owners’ behaviour. For example, car-owners in London state that MaaS would help them depend less on their cars, or it would even make them sell their cars for unlimited access to car-sharing. Non-car-owners state that they would either delay purchasing a car or they would not purchase a car at all if MaaS were available. Similar results have been found in other cities around the world that MaaSLab works with.

MaaS is a promising concept that could cover citizens’ mobility needs and has the potential to boost the transition from vehicle ownership to usership. However, it is worth noting that, although it may result in a decline of private vehicle sales, this decline is likely to be partially offset by increased sales of shared vehicles that need to be replaced more often due to higher use and related wear and tear. But it also has other advantages: when the era of connected and autonomous vehicles comes, MaaS systems and autonomous vehicles will exist in symbiosis. In fact, MaaS could prepare the transport ecosystem for a smooth adoption of, and transition to, autonomous vehicles.

Dr Maria Kamargianni is Lecturer in Transport & Energy and Head of MaaSLab at the UCL Energy Institute.